Monday, 26 March 2012

Time Machine Essay: Research so far...

I have decided to centre my essay around the theme of beauty and the sublime. I was inspired to write about this specifically through reading ‘Photography: the key concepts’.

"The development of the concept of the sublime as an aesthetic quality in nature distinct from beauty was first brought into prominence in the 18th century in the writings of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury and John Dennis, in expressing an appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of external nature, and Joseph Addison's synthesis of concepts of the sublime in his The Spectator, and later the Pleasures of the Imagination. All three Englishmen had, within the span of several years, made the journey across the Alps and commented in their writings of the horrors and harmony of the experience, expressing a contrast of aesthetic qualities."

Visual Reference: Ansel Adams, "Autumn Moon"

Contextual findings
Yosemite National Park was established in 1890. The park was established to preserve its resources, which make it so unique and attractive, as well as to allow future public enjoyment.

“Yosemite National Park is a world heritage site which has made a significant contribution to California's cultural heritage, to the national park movement, and to Yosemite's 4,000 years of cultural heritage by Native Americans.”

Native Americans populated the national park before it became so, and before Euro-Americans arrived on the landscape.

F64 Group
  • Established in 1932 by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham and some others.
  • It deals with the concept of “straight” photography.
  • The group was in response to the "artistic," soft-focus, pictorial type of photography which was popular at the time.
  • Emphasis was placed on "pure" photography, sharp images, maximum depth-of-field, smooth glossy printing paper, emphasizing the unique qualities of the photographic process.
  • The significance of the name lies in the fact that f/64 is the smallest aperture on the lens of a large-format camera and therefore provides the greatest depth-of-field.
  • The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself.

Edmund Burke
As well as being the author of ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful’, Burke was a statesman, orator, political theorist and philosopher. Burke believes that the ‘Beautiful’ is what is well-formed and aesthetically pleasing, whereas the ‘Sublime’ is what has the power to compel and destroy us. The transition from the Neoclassical era to the romantic era was marked by the preference from the sublime to the beautiful.

The Commission: prints and contact sheets

These are the first few images I took for my series. I knew what I wanted from my images; drawing on my inspirations, but I wasn't sure how to achieve it and only realised I hadn't until I looked at my negatives.

The angles aren't quite right and in some images there are too many other distractions. In the images of my subject on the sofa I wanted a much more symmetrical look like that of my subject on the left who I made my first print of.

However, I then realised the photograph did not focus enough on my concept - the second hand market. I realised I needed to change my subjects position in relation to the furniture and put more emphasis on this.

I re-shot the subject on the right and my third with a good outcome.
This is the second contact sheet of images I took; focussing again on the second subject as in my other. It was hard to photograph my subject - my dad, because he works away and I had two opportunities over a period of a couple of months to take my images.

I also photographed the subject I hadn't made a portrait of yet in my second shoot; trying to keep the aesthetics the same for both portraits.

I worked on what I decided was the fault of my last shoot, and perfected the pose and symmetry of my subjects.

Upon looking at my contact sheet it became clear that my focus was not perfect on every image but I needed to choose the ones I did for the composition of my subjects within the frame and the significant similarity between the two I ended up printing for my series.

Something quite frustrating about the two images I took of my new subject which I couldn't print is the fact that the only location I could have taken the image to fit the series would have meant cropping the top of the head in order to remove distracting features. I feel the photograph marked with the X has the right aesthetics to match my visual references, but not to how I have ended up photographing my subjects.

This is the last contact sheet I produced in preparation for my final print.

I experimented with the use of including other small second hand items in my photographs but felt this only caused a distraction and I wanted to achieve the simplicity and the clean look of my influences.

My aim of this shoot was to fit in my last image with the rest of my series which is why I experimented with pose and distance so much to try and recreate the previous.

I tried very much to match the position and distance of this subject to my previously photographed subjects so that it would fit in properly.

I also wanted to correct my last mistake of not including enough of the furniture in the photograph and not drawing enough emphasis upon it. This is why I angled the chair and changed the pose leading it slightly away from directly front on to the camera. I still wanted it to fit in with my other chosen images so I tried to make this change subtle. I then chose to place this print in the middle of my series as it had a slightly different look to my other two prints.

Looking at my contact sheets, I can see images that I feel may have worked better together but at the time of shooting and printing, I did not have all of my negatives together to compile my series at once. This is something I would like to definitely do for future projects.

My Series

Large 3 seat leather reclining sofa: £57
Average price new: £1500

Solid wood table: £60
Average price new: £500

Large solid wood chair: £35
Average price new: £100

'BC Rich' electric guitar: £147
Average price new: £600

'Marshall' amp: £30
Average price new: £200

The Commission - My Research: Anne Hardy

Anne Hardy's photographs of constructed sets of unusual interiors is what she is primarily known for. This work of hers consists of items and furniture which she has collected from places like markets and jumble sales or skips - second hand, and arranged within her studio and then photographed. In this sense, she relates very well to the subjects within my series because there are links evident (in both her photographic choices and with my series) with the population and the second hand market.

Aspects in some of Hardy's work such as in Cipher, provide a painterly and atmospheric aesthetic. This is achieved by the hazy glow being produced by the fluorescent lights; the " faux grotto" walls; and the differing levels of the hanging ropes having an effect spatially upon the room. These aren't just objects found carelessly on the street and thrown into a room together to produce something that could look kind of cool. They are carefully considered objects being places appropriately with each other to create a style which is then complimented with the decoration and technical choices Hardy makes. They are works of art. Hardy often admits to reshooting her images, even if the changes made is moving an object by centimetres.



This second image including the skylights relates well to my choice of using natural lighting because of how the source of light in her work is intended to, and does a very good job of looking like natural daylight. It further evokes the feeling of the set being a regular but just unusually adorned room, which in reality, it is not.


Untitled VI

In an article on 'The Guardian' called "Anne Hardy's best shot", she speaks about an image of hers she particularly likes from 2005. Her sets built in her studio are centred around the camera so it is more photography related than an installation. She used a medium format camera, like I chose to do, and a wide angle lens which makes sense to photograph a whole "room". I used a standard lens however, as I was only photographing certain scenes in a room.


A major similarity between mine and Anne Hardy's work, is that  it somewhat showcases the second hand market. Although Hardy uses a lot of small objects and waste in her images to fill up the room, she also uses furniture and larger objects - this is where the second hand market comes into it and more specifically; it's availability.

Through her printing method Hardy gives the viewer of the image a sense of looking into the room. This is aided by the inclusion of so much of the space and objects in her photograph - namely, her choice of a wide angle lens.


The Commission - My Research: Alex Soth

"I fell in love with the process of taking pictures, with wandering around finding things. To me it feels like a kind of performance. The picture is a document of that performance".

Alex Soth expresses the need to tell a story through his photography and express the narrative but admits he struggles to do so. "Photographs often leave me feeling like something is missing". This is almost like what I wanted to do with my photographs - tell a personal story.

It is an opinion that the best photographs inspire curiosity rather than satisfy it and I believe I may have achieved this is my series with the simplistic framing and the subtle use of money that will make people wonder what the significance of it is. Hopefully people will look at my series and want to know what the significance of the people in their locations are too and their link with them, and in turn, understand the context. I think this is also a similar element in Soth's work. For example, his photograph below, of an older male next to what looks like a cabin holding a model aeroplane in each hand.

Soth talks about how the house caught his eye. He went and enquired and met the man's wife who told him that he had in fact build the house. She also explained how Charles and his daughter built model planes in the room he called his 'cockpit' on the 4th floor entered via a ladder. The room was small and lined with windows; too small to photograph in. The photograph is taken on the roof.

 'Charles, Vasa, Minnesota 2002'

This image provokes my interest (just as Alec Soth talks about this house and the people provoking his) and there also seems to be some juxtaposition between the apparent age of the man and the fact that his hobby is often also shared by children.

The isolation of the subject relates to how I have chosen to frame my subjects with a shallow depth of field. Although the second hand items are important in my series and to my concept, the concentration on the subjects is to give it context and I chose to do this to make it personal.


This image of Soth's would have been a perfect visual reference for my concept had I pursued my first idea about photographing a constructed set in a random location.


Two visual references of Alec Soth's which I found inspired my photographic choices are the portraits below of the women in what seems like their homes. They seem to suit the colour tones in the rooms. It is their posture and their relationship to the camera which I have recreated in my own series as well as their natural expressions and contexts within the photographs.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Critical Appraisal: The Commission (300 words)

My series is about the availability of the second hand market and the advantage of having it in our current economy as well as the anonymity behind is context. My series is based around perfectly good furniture and objects which have become waste to one person but are appreciated by others; one mans trash is another mans treasure. I feel my work would sit best in an exhibition.

My understanding of the issues of waste is that it is generally a negative thing but has many different definitions. Waste can be positive: recycling; compost; the second hand market. I wanted to demonstrate a positive outcome of the issue.

To begin with I wanted to photograph a constructed set after being inspired by Anne Hardy’s work (my research here) but abandoned this idea because I felt it lacked depth. Then I decided I wanted to make portraits with a more personal touch. I looked at Alec Soth’s work (my research here) and aspired to recreate the subtle tones, square aesthetic and precise framing in my own series. I also spent some time researching the second hand market’s advantages and popularity found here

I chose to utilise natural lighting giving a more personal feel to my images. I used ISO 160 film for clarity and used a shallow depth of field to focus on either the faces of my subjects or the significant object and to demonstrate the personal essence in my series.

I managed my studies by taking two photographs and printing these, then re-shooting the other I took at an earlier stage - having already discarded the print. This way I worked well with two images and then concentrated on matching my last to fit the series (contacts and prints here) Time management is the most challenging aspect and to overcome this I need to plan each movement for future projects.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Time Machine Essay: Visual References

I have decided to centre my essay around the theme of beauty and the sublime. I was inspired to write about this specifically through reading 'Photography: the key concepts'.

"The development of the concept of the sublime as an aesthetic quality in nature distinct from beauty was first brought into prominence in the 18th century in the writings of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury and John Dennis, in expressing an appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of external nature, and Joseph Addison's synthesis of concepts of the sublime in his The Spectator, and later the Pleasures of the Imagination. All three Englishmen had, within the span of several years, made the journey across the Alps and commented in their writings of the horrors and harmony of the experience, expressing a contrast of aesthetic qualities."

Casper David Friedrich
"Wanderer above the Sea of Fog"

Friedrich choses to base his landscapes solely on locations in Northern Germany where there are beautiful scenes of scenic trees, hills, harbors, as well as different and atmospheric lighting conditions like misty mornings and other light effects based on a close observation of nature. “Some of Friedrich's best-known paintings are expressions of a religious mysticism."


Ansel Adams
"Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point"
"Ansel Adams was a visionary figure in nature photography and wilderness preservation. He is seen as an environmental folk hero and a symbol of the American West, especially of Yosemite National Park. Adams' dedication to wilderness preservation, his commitment to the Sierra Club, and of course, his signature black-and-white photographs inspire an appreciation for natural beauty and a strong conservation ethic."


Friday, 9 March 2012

The Commission: Contextual 'Waste' project research and developments

I decided to do some more contextual research into the benefits of the second hand market and discovered another very important layer to my concept. Recycling furniture through the second hand market benefits not only the people involved but the environment. This is because the use of resources in manufacturing new furniture is reduced and therefore less "waste" is produced. So not only are people finding a home for second hand furniture considered waste to some, but they are stopping the necessity for the disposal, recycling and process of it becoming technical waste.

A also looked more into the links between the second hand market and our current economic status as I want to make a comment about this. Freecycle is a website devoted to allowing the exchange of second hand items.

"The worldwide Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Our goal is to keep usable items out of landfills. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth. Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process."

By October of 2008, the number of internet searches in the UK consisting of the words 'second hand' had increased by 22% in a year. Cars, books and furniture are among the top listed. People realise that they can save money and help the environment by purchasing second hand items and this is what I want to display in my series.

  • My selection of the furniture in my images will hopefully lead viewers to realise the nature of them because they won't look like the new, perfect, modern products selling now - they are not newly bought or made.
  • The way in which I frame and compose my portraits will also hopefully draw emphasis to the furniture, and therefore their appearance and showcase it well. My subtle use of money (present in the image but not in sharp focus) will emphasis the economic benefit.



Thursday, 1 March 2012

Time Machine Film Review: Festen

The historical movement of realism in literature and art lasted for about 30-40 years during the 19th Century. It's purpose was "to give a truthful, objective and impartial representation of the real world". Dogme 95 is a process by which film makers follow certain rules when directing; such as no music being added to the film, no extra props, it must be filmed in colour and without special lighting, and the camera filming every scene must be hand held. These are a few of the 10 goals created to "purify" filmmaking. This particular process of filmmaking is very relative to the notion of realism since in the real world we don't hear music and we don't see things in black and white. Therefore imitating how we really live our daily lives through filmmaking complying to the Dogme 95 guidlines, accurately presents us with some truth - though how much is questionable...

Festen, or 'The Celebration' was directed by Thomas Vinterburg. Festen was the first Dogme 95 film, and Vinterburg; one of the founders of the movement. Despite the aim of Dogme 95, Vinterburg admitted to blocking a window in one of the scenes of the film which means two rules were broken - additional props being brought in and the use of special lighting. Furthermore, director Von Trier also used backing music during the filming of 'The Idiots'. The inclusion of these artificial aspects means the representation cannot be argued as a truthful one.

A particular scene in the film interested me. During the celebratory meal where everyone is gathered for Helge's 60th birthday, Christian stands up to make his toast and he suddenly begins speaking of how his father sexually abused him and his twin sister (who previous committed suicide in the hotel where the party is happening). Throughout and when he has finished speaking there is a confused and still atmosphere. The camera films people looking blankly at each other. His father at the head of the table dismisses it. After this scene of the film, it seems the aspect of doubt and confusion surrounding whether or not what Christian spoke of is actually true and how people just disregard it, means that because people can get on with the party, seems to automatically mean it's not true, or 'real'. This is the impression I got from the filmmaking in this case - how it seems that the truth comes out, but life goes on like it is not the truth at all.